The last remnant of a Sandy Hook beach club that was the subject of a Fair Haven man’s nostalgic documentary earlier this year now has a support group.
Chris Brenner tells redbankgreen that his video gave rise to an effort to save the Sandlass House, which overlooks the Shrewsbury River from the site of a long-demolished resort called Highland Beach and is slated for demolition.
Supporters plan to press their case for preserving the structure this Friday in Shrewsbury.
A postcard of the Highland Beach resort in its early days, above. Below, other than some pilings, few traces of the club remain. (Click to enlarge)
That when the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet at the Eastern Branch Monmouth County Library. The meeting begins at 9 a.m., with a public comment session starting at 11:30 a.m.
Susan Sandlass Gardiner, who spent her first 19 years in the house as a granddaughter of the resort’s founder, William Sandlass Jr., plans to attend. She’s been spearheading the preservation effort, which has included meetings with officials from the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, of which Sandy Hook is part, and Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long.
The structure, Gardiner told redbankgreen, “represents the birth of tourism at the northern Jersey Shore,” as it was the first resort encounters by hordes of visitors arriving by ferry and train from points north at the turn of the 20th century. Highland Beach would sometimes get 15,000 visitors in a day, and later, as a beach club, boasted cabanas for 300 families, she said.
Gardiner, who now lives in Montgomery Village, Maryland, said the 122-year-old house once stood in the middle of what’s now the tollway entrance to the park. It’s now tucked between a ramp to theRoute 36 Azzolina Bridge and the Shrewsbury River, just yards from its original location. It’s also the last remaining structural vestige of Highland Beach.
The Sandlasses lost the property to eminent domain in 1962, when the Army leased the south end of Fort Hancock to the state of New Jersey on the condition that it be used as a park.
Gardiner said she’d like to see the house “used as it was originally: serving the community as a catalyst, as a place for the community to come together.” Though the structure is slated to be demolished, Gardiner said park officials have indicated a willingness to donate it for relocation if it’s structurally sound and her group takes on the costs of the move.
Brenner, whose parents met at the resort’s Bamboo Room bar in the 1940s, is peripherally involved in the preservation effort. “I’m not a community organizer,” he said. “I’m just a guy who hacks away at movies” when not at his day job in the information technology field.
But he’s thrilled that his video, which has attracted some 12,000 views since it was posted on redbankgreen in early June, has been so deeply appreciated. Gardiner’s formation of the grass-roots preservation effort was a “bonus,” he said.
Did you miss Brenner’s video? Watch it here. Brenner has also launched a “Friends of Highland Beach” Facebook page. A separate “Save Sandlass” Facebook page managed by Gardiner has some photos from the home’s interior.